Strategic Planning Series Part 5:
The Issues Component
“Problems are like mushrooms. When it’s dark and rainy, they multiply. Under bright light, they diminish.” Gino Wickman
The key to addressing and correcting the issues that are keeping your organization from successfully reaching your goals is a safe environment that promotes open and honest communication. If your organization does not currently have a culture that supports this, you can get there. Encourage it. Encourage everyone to respectfully communicate their concerns and ideas for solutions. The more your team sees their peers openly sharing in a safe environment, the more others will follow.
When your team is sharing open and honest communication, your Issues List can become a tool for keeping all of your issues out in the open and organized in one place.
Three Types of Issues Lists in the EOS System
Long-term issues. These are items that cannot be tackled in a week or two but need to be documented so that they are not forgotten. Issues that can be addressed in the immediate quarter are placed on a quarterly list referred to as Rocks in EOS. Quarterly Rocks are assigned to individuals so that there is accountability assigned for seeing that these issues are addressed. Issues that are farther out in your planning can be placed on your V/TO so that they can be addressed in a future quarter when the timing is right.
Weekly Leadership Team Issues List. These items are to be addressed more immediately and are discussed during your weekly leadership team meetings. These are items that need to be resolved at the highest level.
The Departmental Issues List. These issues can be addressed at a departmental level v. the need for your highest level of leadership to address them. They are specific to a department in your organization and can be handled at that level, removing the need for leadership to have them on their immediate radar.
The Issues Solving Track
Identify the real issue. Often the stated problem is not the real issue (it’s not about the nail). By discussing the issue in your leadership or department meeting, you can dig down to the root of the problem. For example, you may have a stated issue that client Smith Corporation is a terrible client who never pays their bills on time. But as you investigate the problem more thoroughly, you discover that Smith Corporation has specific billing guidelines that are not being properly followed by your billing department, resulting in rejected invoices that must be corrected and resubmitted.
Discuss. This is where it is most important for everyone to be able to share in honest, respectful communication. Consider the above example. If your billing manager is someone who some individuals on your team want to protect, it is important that your team members know that it is safe for them to share concerns about that individual’s performance. Understand that it is okay to have healthy conflict in order for the best solution to come to light. It may be that your billing person in this example has too much on their plate, keeping them from successful performance through no fault of their own. Without open and honest discussion, you cannot find a solution to your issue.
Solve. The solve step is a conclusion or solution that typically becomes an action item for someone to do. This action item ends up on the To Do list so that it is accomplished with accountability assigned, and the issue gets resolved. In the example discussed here, your firm administrator may be assigned to work with your billing person to identify where they need help.
Keys to Successful Issue Solving
You cannot always rule by consensus. Every team needs a quarterback. Consensus management does not work. When you are unable to come to a decision where everyone agrees, someone has to make the final decision. Once the final decision has been made, you must present a united front moving forward.
Be strong. The right decision is not always easy to implement. You must be willing to make the tough decisions.
Be decisive. The inability to make a decision can be your worst enemy. Successful businesses share the quality of making decisions quickly and changing them slowly.
Do not rely on secondhand information. You cannot solve an issue involving multiple people without all of the parties present. If they are not currently available, schedule a time when they are.
Fight for the greater good. Focus on the vision for the organization. Decisions cannot be made for the benefit of one individual over the benefit of the organization as a whole.
Do not try to solve everything. Prioritize your issues. You will never solve them all. Solve the most important issue first, and then move on to the next.
Live with it, end it, or change it. When you have an issue, you have to decide which of these decisions you will make. If you are unhappy about something, end it or change it. If you are unwilling or unable to do either of these things, at least right now, then live with it and stop complaining. Complaining is a waste of time and gets you nowhere.
Take a shot. Propose a solution. Don’t wait around for someone else to do it. This is something that should be instilled in your culture. I have always had the policy that if someone comes to me with a problem or complaint, they should also be prepared with a suggested solution.
By having a protocol for openly and systematically identifying, addressing, and solving issues in your firm, you can move forward with meeting your vision and goals. In a future article, we will discuss how the L-10 meeting protocol in the EOS system will help you to address and resolve your issues in an efficient and successful way.
For assistance with your strategic planning, contact Suzette@LawPracticeEdge.com. For more information on the EOS system, check out Gino Wickman’s book Traction.